'Sock-it-to-Idaho Act' up for D.C. hearing this week

(Editor's Note posted Oct. 13, 2017: View a video of the hearing on Youtube by clicking here. Read IRU's comments to the committee, submitted Oct. 11, by clicking here.)

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. this Thursday will weigh in on a bill Idaho conservationists have coined the “Sock-it-to-Idaho Act” for its attempt to wipe out progress made on behalf of endangered wild salmon and the people who depend on them.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will hold a hearing on H.R. 3144, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. and cosponsored by Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Kurt Scrader, D-Ore. (Editor's note: Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, signed on as a co-sponsor in December.)

“This bill is a death warrant for endangered salmon,” said IRU Executive Director Kevin Lewis. “Idaho’s iconic salmon have been teetering on the brink of extinction for more than 25 years with little progress toward recovery. Inviting Congress to ignore a massive body of scientific work that identifies the real causes of salmon decline is unconscionable. This bill should be dead on arrival.”

H.R. 3144 is aimed at rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon. It would, first, overturn Simon’s opinion that federal agencies’ 2014 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion is illegal and enshrine the illegal document until 2022. Second, it would prevent expansion of spring spill, which Simon ordered in April 2017 to help salmon survive the perilous journey through eight federal dams while deliberations about the dams are ongoing.

“The U.S. District Court required federal agencies in charge of the Columbia-Snake hydro-system to consider new alternatives in a publicly involved process that is already underway,” said Zack Waterman, director of the Idaho Sierra Club. “If this bill passes, it would undermine the judiciary, halt this public process, and prevent federal agencies from even considering alternatives to the failing status quo.”

Salmon communities will be represented at the hearing by Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and a longtime ally of Idaho salmon groups. Hamilton plans to emphasize the economic contributions that recreational fishing make to the Pacific Northwest, as well as underscore just how bad for wild salmon H.R. 3144 would be.

“Business as usual has already cost regional energy consumers and taxpayers more than $16 billion and has yet to recover a single endangered salmon population,” Waterman said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to let this public process move forward and consider much needed alternatives.”    

More details about the hearing:

H.R. 3144
Water, Oceans and Power Subcommittee (for the House Natural Resources Committee)
Thursday, Oct. 12, 10 a.m. Eastern

Related information:

Banner photo by Michael Wells, Salmon Blog (salmonblog.weebly.com)